The first major project from Jerry Seinfeld after the credits rolled on the last "Seinfeld" episode, "Bee Movie" is an animated adventure that has Seinfeld voicing the lead character, Barry B. Benson. The movie opens with Barry graduating from school and heading off to the workforce in the honey factory. However, despite the excitement of pal Adam (Matthew Broderick) and others about working in the hive, Barry wants to see the outside world, and manages to work his way into the flight jock group, whose job it is to fly out into the world and both harvest and distribute pollen.
While taking a breather on a nearby tennis court, Barry gets stuck to one of the balls that's used in a game between Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) and Ken (Patrick Warburton). Thanks to a distraction by one of his fellow bees, the ball flys out of the court and Barry ends up in the city. Trying to figure out what to do when it rains, he ends up buzzing into the apartment of Vanessa, who manages to save him when Ken and her other friends try to swat him. Although bees are never supposed to speak to humans, Barry wants to thank Vanessa and, after her shock when the bee starts talking to her, the two strike up a friendship.
Barry, however, is shocked and appaled when he finds out that humans are eating the honey that the bees work so hard to create. Barry decides to sue honey companies for using their honey, but little does he know what a "honey stoppage" will have on the world if he successfully gets humans to stop using it.
"Bee Movie" is written by "Seinfeld", co-writer Barry Marden and former "Seinfeld" writers Andy Robin and Spike Feresten. Despite the comedic skills of the writers, the movie makes the mistake of focusing a little too much on the story and doesn't give enough effort to the jokes, which are mostly either a little too ho-hum ("Bee Larry King" or the fact that Ray Liotta has his own brand of honey, which isn't funny as much as it just is) or fall flat. The story itself feels like it needed some re-thinking, as the friendship between Barry and Vanessa is never really made clear, as while the movie intends them to be friends, Barry is soon bumping Ken out of the picture, much to Ken's anger.
The element of Barry going to court trying to take down the honey business just doesn't exactly work, either - these scenes are just not very funny or interesting. The movie does start well and pick up towards the end fairly decently, but the middle section does get mildly draggy at times. Again, the movie manages to be a decent adventure (although it reminds me of "Antz", only with bees), but I have to think it intended to be a comedy, as well, and it just isn't as funny as I would have believed it would have been, given not only Seinfeld's involvement in the script, but the involvement of Robin and Ferestein. It makes me wonder if the movie wouldn't have been a little better as a PG-13 instead of the restrictive PG.
Visually, the picture clicks fairly well, offering up a vibrant city, a moderately well-realized hive and enjoyable character designs. It's not the most dazzling CGI-animated picture ever, but it works well enough. The voice work ranges from passable (Warburton has done better and Zellweger is a little vanilla) to good (Seinfeld is amusing, and while John Goodman has played his role before in live-action films, few can do it better.)
The funny thing - and while I love video games I can't remember ever saying this - I liked the "Bee Movie" videogame slightly better than the movie. While similar in story, the game gave a great sense of the scope of the human world, had some great little touches (Barry rides gusts of wind through the rain that whirl him around like micro tornados, but get him closer to his destination) and had a nice sprinkling of humor (playable "bee" versions of popular videogames within the game in a "bee arcade") amidst the adventures.
Still, one can't help but feel that the movie concentrated a little too much on making an adventure and not enough on the characters or comedy. The story could have used some rewrites, but it gets too much of the attention here, which is too bad, as the jokes needed some punching up.
VIDEO: Dreamworks presents "Bee Movie" on Blu-Ray in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC). While the film's CG animation doesn't reach the level of Pixar's work, the astonishing Blu-Ray presentation certainly does it more justice than the fine DVD presentation did. The Blu-Ray presentation is a dazzler, as sharpness and detail are just fantastic - the Blu-Ray presentation of the film definitely has superior definition and depth to the image versus the more flat-looking DVD presentation. Small object detail is terrific, as small details such as pollen or hairs or even the texture on a short are presented with striking clarity.
The picture doesn't suffer from any flaws that I noticed - no edge enhancement, no noise, no pixelation, no nothing. This was simply a smooth, crisp, clean presentation of the material. While I wasn't crazy about the movie itself, I can't deny it looked pretty amazing here. Colors looked bright and bold, appearing punchier and more vibrant than on the DVD edition.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on the Blu-Ray edition. The film's sound design is delightful, doing an excellent job getting the viewer in the midst of Barry's world. Scenes like Barry being stuck to the tennis ball and dodging rain are quite enveloping, with terrific use of the surrounds for effects and ambience. Audio quality remains strong, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue and effects. There are also a few instances of nice, mild low-end bass. This is not going to stand as home theatre demo material, but I thought it was a fun sound mix.
EXTRAS: The video extras are in HD.
Jerry Seinfeld and the film's directors sit for a commentary. It's a fine enough yak track, with Seinfeld providing more of a discussion than he has for his recent "Seinfeld" DVD commentaries. The "alternate endings" (unfinished animation and commentary before the scene plays from Jerry) section provides no less than 6 alternate endings, which makes one wonder how much of the picture was being worked out as it went along. I actually liked a rather bizarre outer space alternate ending, which Seinfeld describes as his favorite.
We also get 16 TV "juniors" (short gag clips that were aired to promote the flick.) Some of the gags in these are a little forced, but there's enough chuckles to make them worth watching. "Lost Scenes" offers 3 scenes with unfinished animation (commentary before the scene plays from Jerry), including a weird scene with the Queen bee, as well as a scene trying to position Ray Liotta's character as the villain in a late scene. Last, but not least, there's also a "making of" and a look at Seinfeld's ridiculous "flight" over Cannes in a bee suit. The live-action trailers for the film are also included.
"The Tech of Bee Movie" is a short featurette with Seinfeld, the FX artists and others discussing the visual effects work of the picture, including Seinfeld's ability to work from NYC. We also get a short Q & A with Seinfeld in character, "We Got the Bee" music video, a batch of musical moments from other Dreamworks animation titles, "The Buzz About Bees" fact featurette (which - like the commentary - notes that beekeepers are not the villains the movie makes them out to be), "The Ow Meter" interactive game, "That's Un-Bee-leavable" trivia game, "Pollenation Practice" game, "Be a Bee" game and DVD-ROM content, including a demo of the "Bee Movie" game. The commentary on this DVD edition is rather good, but I was a little disappointed with the remainder of the extras, which seemed like either promotional material or material for the youngest viewers.
The Blu-Ray edition does offer a few added bonus features, such as a subtitle fact track, picture-in-picture storyboard feature and customizable menus.
Final Thoughts: "Bee Movie" manages to be a decent adventure and has a few moments here-and-there of decent comedy, but concentrating on one or the other and ironing out the story could have helped. The Blu-Ray edition offers outstanding video quality, excellent audio quality and a nice selection of supplements. Still, the movie only earns a rental recommendation.
The Film C+